This is a simple test for films (and books) that is harder to pass than you might think at first blush.
/bech•del test/ n.
1. The film (or book, Ed.) has to have at least two [named] women characters in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something besides a man.
Janak Alford from prototypeD.org suggested we put Quantum Entity, We Are All ONE (www.brucemfirestone.com) to the test. These are the folks who are producing a short film based on QE to be released on the same day as the book (June 20, 2012 at Artifex, http://www.exploriem.org/events/artifex/).
It didn’t take me long to find a scene that I think can pass Bechdel. This is from Chapter 1, Book 1. Some of my key characters are at an after-show party taking place on the top floor of the Soho Met Hotel and Dafne Weinstein, Nell’s publicist, is trying to pry her away from a local tech guy (Damien Bell as it turns out) who appears to be monopolizing her time. Dafne is anxious to capitalize on the show’s momentum via a Nell appearance on all their social media channels.
Here is the scene:
Weinstein especially is concerned. The live social media feedback for the concert is overwhelmingly positive and it feels like the whole world is waiting for Nell to make her media wall appearance. Weinstein wants to keep the momentum going but Nell has the unfortunate habit of wanting to actually talk to her fans herself, post her own comments and respond to as many as she can. She has this thing about being authentic.
In the past, Weinstein has watched Nell talk about her boobs (real), the fact that one of her legs is a bit shorter than the other (a childhood scooter accident) and what it’s like to be so poor you can’t get any medical or dental help in what once was the world’s richest, most powerful nation.
Dafne wants Nell to ease up on herself and let her find ghost writers for all their social media platforms, blogs and video channels. Nell just says ‘No’, firmly and finally.
“Nell, excuse me, but you promised Tech Crunch TV and YouTube a follow up interview after your final show and Cronkey and Vidalis are waiting for you. We’ve set them up in the ante room to your dressing room,” Weinstein adds, not bothering to introduce herself to the tech guy who is monopolizing Nell’s time. “We’ve also set you up with a cross platform virtual keypad and camera so you can record your thoughts for your social media fans too.”
“Damien, I would like you to meet Ms. Dafne Weinstein, my publicist,” Nell says in her somewhat husky voice that seems to envelope everyone around her.
Dafne does the minimum to be polite, shakes hands perfunctorily with Damien and, with her rather large hand on Nell’s lower back, steers her through the room towards the hallway leading to where Cronkey and Vidalis sit, patiently, waiting for Nell.
I had long planned to tell the story of Quantum Entity, Book 1 from Damien’s point of view frankly because as a first time novelist, a male point of view is what I understand best. Book 2 was planned around biz dynamo Ellen Brooks and Book 3 is from another POV I can’t yet disclose. But Ellen is such a strong character that she took over the last third of Book 1. I didn’t plan that; it just happened. When you read QE, you’ll understand why. At times, I felt like I wasn’t writing the book at all. My characters, especially the female leads Ellen and Nell come to the forefront. They were telling me the story (dictating it really); I was just their scribe.
I hope readers will agree with me that Ellen, Nell, Dafne, Arcadia and other women characters you will find there are fantastic and not just there to be pretty wallpaper, foils for men, prizes to be sought after, screaming for help or waiting to be rescued by handsome princes. Sometimes, it’s just the opposite in fact. I have always liked strong women (and married one who I still adore 27 years later). What I find amazing though is the complete transformation I went through as I sought to improve my understanding of a woman’s way of doing things.
They tend to be more careful, plan things out more thoroughly, trying not to overlook things that may trip them up later and introducing far more what-if scenarios than men typically do.
In biz dev, women tend to have powerful feelings for their fledgling enterprises more akin to nurturing them. Men often want to have sex with their business creation. Different impulses but similar results. Both invoke passion. The other major difference is that many men want to be big or go home. I have male entrepreneurs that I mentor who have $8 million in revenues and tell me they suck and women entrepreneurs with businesses doing topline volume of $800,000 that think are wonderful. The latter is more of a lifestyle biz, probably not sustainable after the Founder retires. I ask my women entrepreneurs to raise their sights. I ask the guys to raise their game– execute better.
But I’ll admit it, I am a romantic too so there’s lots of that in this QE trilogy. Soon you will get to judge for yourself how these women and others in the books act, interact, develop and cope with their lives. I tried to develop female leads that knew how to talk to other women in a non-MTV/Much Music/Mean Girl kind of way.
Some of the female characters follow in the tradition of Ellen (!) Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver in the 1979 film, Alien). Ripley is warrant officer aboard spaceship Nostromo. On its journey back from Thedus to Earth, they pick up a hitchhiker who kills almost all her entire crew. What blew me away when I first saw the movie (I was in LA during its release) was that a fearless woman could walk tall and carry a big stick. For a guy who went to an all-boys school, then engineering school (we had 500 first year Engineers of which 2 were women; in second year we had none, one went to architecture and the other bolted), then I worked in male-dominated tech in Oz, so it was a complete eye opener. I had never seen a woman do anything other than look good and scream at the right (or wrong) times in sci-fi or horror flicks up to that point (think Fay Wray and King Kong, 1939). Of course, this is old news now with people like Sheryl Sandberg taking on the COO job at Facebook.
Fay with Her Director, Producing the Scream!
I have three beautiful daughters all in their 20s now and, in part, I wrote QE for them. Women form a majority of student population at most tertiary institutions, make up roughly half the labor force in the US, do more than half of the housework at home, most of the child rearing and are the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of American families– bottom-line, women are working more hours on more jobs than most men*
(* The Shriver Report, By Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress, edited by Heather Boushey and Ann O’Leary | October 16, 2009)
ps. I have two fine sons and a handsome grandson just a few weeks old too BTW.